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When Hymns are on TV  

Did you watch the American Country Music Awards last weekend?

Despite having fewer viewers than last year, the ACM awards show still drew a larger audience than its network competitors combined.

Though I like a lot of modern country music, award shows are not my thing.  But I’m so glad Diana was watching. I was working on a sermon in my office when the sounds of Amazing Grace echoed down the hall.

Sauntering into the family room, I watched Carrie Underwood proclaiming, "was blind, but now I see!" Then gospel music legend CeCe Winans joined her for a stunning rendition of Great is Thy Faithfulness. As the hymn medley continued, a choir joined in on The Old Rugged Cross, which transitioned into a spectacular performance of How Great Thou Art.

Was this really happening?  A playlist of choice hymns sung on the CBS network—not some Christian cable channel?  It was hard to believe. 

Against the powerful current of a culture that (to my ear) seems to be shouting its rejection of Christianity, here was this island moment of worshipful hymns.

It’s easy to grumble about the direction in which our country is headed.  Easy to be a pessimist.

There is much which ought to alarm us about our culture. Still…still…for five minutes, the nation watched (more than six million of us) and listened to a message that stands timeless against all the hate and violence of our day.

Yes, America is broken.

Yes, we’re on a dark path.

But somehow, we ought not to let things like this pass us by.

Let’s not forget to celebrate the good things.

This good thing.

Me?  I stand with Carrie Understood and sing to our God, “How great thou art!”

 
Routine Maintenance  

Do you enjoy routine maintenance?
 
I don’t, for two reasons: “routine” and “maintenance.” There is nothing fun about either one.
 
In my experience—and perhaps yours as well— routine maintenance is rarely routine. Drive your car in for a "routine" oil change, and they invariably present you with an $850 list of "critical" issues you "absolutely must address!" Stroll into the dentist's office for a "routine" check-up, and you walk out with a $1,500 quote for a crown.
 
Last weekend, we decided we'd be good homeowners and clean out our dryer vent—routine maintenance recommended at least annually. But the cleaning brush never made it out to the vent, no matter what I did. Creeping across our cobweb-covered crawlspace, my worst suspicions were confirmed. The dryer duct lay on the cement—connected to absolutely nothing. Was it ever fastened to the outside vent?  Maybe. But shoddy workmanship had created a new headache.
 
Two hours—and one trip to Home Depot—later, the dryer duct disaster was finally over. Routine maintenance—yeah, right.
 
I suppose that same avoidance attitude might well hamper me when it comes to spiritual maintenance. For those of us who went to the school of If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It, the Bible has instructions otherwise. What if we emulated David's schedule for heart maintenance? In Psalms 139:23-24, he prayed, "Search me, God, and know my heart; put me to the test and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there is any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.”
 
That doesn’t sound like a five-minute task, does it? Inviting God to do His routine maintenance—to search my heart—could get very messy very quickly. I'm smart enough to know there's stuff there that shouldn't be there, but not smart enough to know the full extent to which I'm offending the Almighty.
 
Like I say, routine maintenance is rarely routine. But what’s the alternative, spiritually speaking?

  • A heart of stone.
  • A soul adrift.
  • A wasted life.

 
Routine spiritual maintenance may not be fun. But neither was Calvary.
 
Got any spiritual maintenance scheduled?

 
Giant-Sized Exaggeration!  

How big does something have to be for you to consider it giant-sized?  For cereal makers, the answer appears to be “not very big.”

Consider two boxes of cereal in my hands (see photo below). On my left is what Quaker calls a “giant” sized box of Life cereal. In my right hand is what Kellogg’s considers a “mega” sized box of Frosted Shredded Wheat (don’t judge our cereal choices, please—that might be another blog).

I’d say that one box is certainly full-sized—-maybe even large. But mega? No way! The “giant” box of Life cereal weighs in at 24.8 ounces. Yet a quick bit of research shows the average cereal box weighs 25 ounces  In other words, Quaker is trying to tell me its slightly smaller-than-average cereal box is giant!

But if something is “giant size” or “Mega size,” shouldn’t that be obvious? Do we need a label to tell us? Beware bold and braggadocios claims.

That same warning holds for our spiritual lives. I confess I’m guilty of labeling my smallest sacrifices, my tiniest obediences, as giant size. Even if I never verbalize these thoughts, they exist nonetheless, somewhere not too far off in my unholy subconscious. Those inflated claims of our spirituality permeate most everything, don’t they?

Wonder how often my words are bigger than my testimony. The love I have for Jesus, I assert, is King size.  But is it? Or is it something smaller—something way less?

The real measurement of my spirituality is not the distance between my waving arms during Sunday worship but how close my steps are to Jesus on Monday. And Tuesday. And beyond. The greater the distance between our steps, the smaller the true size of my love for Christ.

 

Lord, help the labels I put on my life match the love I’ve placed at your feet.

 
How much money?  

Flipping through The Ultimate Book of Randomly Awesome Facts, I stumbled upon the following statistic:

The total amount of money in the world adds up to 60 trillion dollars.  That’s a 60 with a whole lot of zeroes!

John D. Rockefeller was the world's first billionaire and, at one point, the world's richest man. Since he was a billionaire in the early 1900s (when a billion was actually worth something), he is still regarded as the wealthiest person in modern history. When a reporter asked him how much money it takes to make a man happy, Rockefeller famously replied, "Just one more dollar."

Michael Norton, a Harvard Business School professor who has studied the connections between happiness and wealth, published the results of an intriguing study. He and his collaborators asked more than 2,000 people who have a net worth of at least $1 million (including many whose wealth far exceeded that threshold) how happy they were on a scale of one to ten, and then how much more money they would need to get to ten.

Norton commented, "Basically, everyone says they'd need two or three times as much to be perfectly happy."  Really?  A millionaire needs two or three to be perfectly happy?  Someone with 10 million “needs” twenty or thirty million?

Philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer was right when he said wealth is “like seawater: the more you drink, the thirstier you become.”

But lest we sneer at Rockefeller's ingratitude, we'd best inventory our own hearts.  Greed and ingratitude are twin sins that find shelter in nearly every crack and crevice of our twisted souls.

In 1Timothy 6:6,7, Paul reminds us, "But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it, either.”

How much money does it take to make you happy?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Step Counter  

The phone screen says the same thing every morning. As I swipe to look at yesterday's step count, it speaks of the new day just begun, "No data." Meaning, I haven’t taken a single step (okay, not technically true—it’s about 50 steps from my bed to the phone in the office). The point is, there’s nothing to report. Hence the statement, “No data.” But that doesn’t last for long.

Like many folks, I’m hounded by the daily drive to get those magical ten-thousand steps in. So when working at home, having finished early morning devotions, I’m off for a 40-minute walk.

That’s a great start. But it doesn’t get me to my goal by any stretch. So, like you—though maybe you use a Fitbit—I’m constantly checking in to monitor my step count.

If you were to accuse me of being a bit obsessive on the step count thing, there would be little in my defense (did I mention I manually add those 50 steps from the bed to the phone—to make sure they’re tallied?).

In the world of heart health, counting your steps is huge. But when it comes to spiritual heart health, the metrics are different. The question is not how many, but what kind.

Look at your life—today's schedule, for example. Where will those steps take you—toward serving self or serving your Savior? As you look back on yesterday, did your steps lead you to “the least of these” or “more for you”?

Jesus is not looking at the quantity of our steps, but He is very concerned about the quality. Ultimately, the issue is one of destiny. Am I walking toward the kingdom of God, or walking toward the kingdom of me?

Back to the phone (or your Fitbit) for one last thought. Once I turn out the light and fall into bed, that day’s steps are “done.” No chance to add more. The record is there.  A thousand days—or a thousand years—from now, the steps I take today will be what they are. Same is true spiritually. Better walk wisely!

 

Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me.

-Psalms 119:33

 
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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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Jon Gauger Media 2016